POLITICS
11/02/2015 10:14 GMT | Updated 11/02/2015 15:59 GMT

Harriet Harman's Pink Bus Stunt Has Backfired (But We ARE All Still Talking About It)

After finally putting to rest a damaging class storm over White Van Man, Labour has created another mini-bus-related controversy all of its own making.

The good news for Labour is that everyone is talking about Harriet Harman’s pink bus. The bad news is, it's not in a good way.

Harman's rosy-hued mini-bus is about to go on tour in what some have described as a “patronising” attempt to encourage women to vote and is due to visit more than 70 constituencies in the run-up to the general election.

The Labour deputy leader's ‘woman-to-woman’ campaign hopes to address at least some of the 9.1million women who failed to vote in the 2010 election.

pink bus

Everyone is talking about Harriet Harman's #pinkbus

But rather than spearheading women’s representation in politics, Harman was forced to defend her decision to use the bright van, insisting: “We wanted it to look conspicuous and therefore a white van was not going to do the job. It is a very nice looking bus.”

She told Huffington Post UK political director Mehdi Hasan there had been "doctrinal discussions" before the launch of the women's campaign over whether the bus's driver - provided by Labour's biggest union funder - should be a woman.

"Unite has provided us with a driver and blow me down they've managed to find a woman with one of these licences," she said. We've had lots of doctrinal discussions, such as: should we be all right with a male driver?"

Asked whether the choice of pink for the bus's colour was "patronising", Harman said: "Well it doesn't have big eyelashes on the front. We don't care. Actually it's got to look like itself. Because it's new; it's different."

Gloria de Piero, Labour’s spokeswoman on women and equalities opined the bus was “cerise” and general election co-ordinator Lucy Powell issued the somewhat risqué statement that Labour wanted to have a conversation with women “around the kitchen table.”

harriet harman

Harman has defended the vehicle, pointing out it is the same colour as the typeface for Labour's One Nation slogan

Scorn was to be expected from some quarters.

Tory MP Caroline Dinenage said: “The wheels have come off the Labour bus. Getting Harriet Harman to drive around the country in a pink van to try and attract the female vote is as patronising as it gets. This is clearly just another divisive gimmick that the electorate will see through.”

Meanwhile a Lib Dem spokeswoman said: “Women voters won’t forget Labour’s car crash record on the economy just because Harriet Harman turns up in a pink van.”

Despite the umbrage, as of Wednesday morning Harman’s pink bus was a hot topic of conversation and among the top trends on Twitter in the United Kingdom. But probably not for the reasons she would have hoped…